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Back in the saddle: Jay Kohn savoring Billings Outlaws streaming role

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Posted at 2:57 PM, Apr 12, 2022

BILLINGS - Fans who listen closely to this year's Billings Outlaws games online may recognize a familiar voice, but in a context they're not necessarily used to.

"Welcome fans, inside the First Interstate Arena, joined by Mitch Donahue, I'm Jay Kohn," announced the longtime Montana Television Network news broadcaster at the top of Sunday's indoor football home game between the Outlaws and Salina (Kans.) Liberty.

Kohn stepped away from full time news coverage at MTN three years ago. But he recently fielded a call out of the blue from Mark Donahue, a housemate decades ago in Helena.

"Do I dare tell you, it was like 44 years ago," Kohn recalled to MTN Sports with disbelief before Sunday's indoor football kickoff.

Mark Donahue now produces the Outlaws' online game steam and encouraged Kohn, so to speak, to get the band back together.

"And I'm like, I haven't done play-by-play for 34 years, or so!" Kohn exclaimed, recalling the last time he called TV games.

"I think it was when MTN broadcast one of the very first Class AA basketball tournaments," he said. "I think it was '87."

The sports gig couldn't come at a better time.

"It's been a rough year. Between the pandemic, and we lost my daughter Melanie to cancer, so it was kind of, let's do something totally different and have fun with it.

"I'm thinking it's going to be a little rough. I'm a little nervous," he half-jokingly continued. "Can you see the sweat in my palms?"

There was no sweat. In his mind Kohn may have been hiding some rust, but truth is, play-by-play ability isn't a craft broadcasters just forget. Especially such a seasoned sports fanatic.

"That was my first love — sports," he admitted. "So, I thought I'd go into sports broadcasting, but..."

But, he concluded, the sports pay scale wouldn't have covered bills for a family of five. Still, most people don't realize Kohn's first job in the business was as sports director during 1978 in Helena. Fast forward beyond four decades of news coverage and he's come full circle, leaping right back into the sandbox.

"Look at this system here," Kohn slightly marveled, pointing to a barrage of monitors, audio boards and equipment for the Outlaws setup. "It's got five or six cameras, three replay cameras, they're providing replay for the officials."

An option not available years ago during the Outlaws' last run in Billings, officials can now reference a replay monitor. Also new is the ability for fans to stream free league games

Years back, Kohn also handled his share of sports radio which presents a slight contrast to video play-by-play.

"Well, in radio, you have to describe the whole thing and in television, you've got five or six cameras that can tell the story for you," he explained. "So, for me it's going to be a challenge... just shut up, Jay!

"I guess I'll give it a shot," he said with a boyish grin. "I just like sports."